The ARF’s Creative Council’s mandate is to help the advertising community define or evolve collaboration models that can guide an improved process for researchers and creatives.
While there is not one model out there for how research and creative teams can collaborate and share insights most effectively, there are characteristics that all good collaboration models possess. These attributes can serve as a kind of model for us all as we examine our own approaches to collaboration, and how to make them personally enriching, powerful and effective.
Collaboration can be defined as people, often groups, working together through ideas, sharing and thinking to accomplish a common goal. It is the words common goal here that may need renewed focus, especially as we consider the two groups of research and creatives.
It’s easy for the research goal to become the delivery of a bullet proof evaluation of the advertising, sending the creative teams on the agency side to scramble for their Marine-vetted protective gear. If the agency’s goal is to get the creative out alive, and be ready to fight back, there’s clearly no collaboration in play. This combative old-school model is unfortunately still alive and well, despite the fact that today’s reality of research consultants using learning systems, and not blunt pass/fail systems, exist; every day, these are applied with both speed and creative intelligence for brands. But, beliefs can be hard not only to replace, but to even question—especially when so much is at stake.
And what’s at stake is actually the point: it’s the brand that’s at stake, not protection of the research or the creative. Every branded communication has the potential to positively evolve the brand’s story and its meaning. And that’s why both evaluation and creative exist.
With that in mind, here are five core competencies of any research and creative collaboration:
- Extend Trust: If these two teams working for the brand are willing to entertain the possibility that each has, with integrity, taken a kind of Hippocratic oath to “do no harm” to the brand, that openness becomes the simple yet profound “reality” that sets their unified goal and focus. Without it, rocky beginnings can lead to escalation and increased conflict, instead of brand learning for all collaborators.
- Respect Creativity: Creativity is not limited to the agency side, but agency creativity is different than the creativity required for innovative heuristic measurement. Respecting the discrete skills, as well as the grit required on both sides that got everyone in the room, will help check researchers’ temptation to act like filmmakers, and it will help agency creatives not ignore the substantial knowledge base of researchers who have diagnosed thousands of ads.
- Prioritization: Simply put, this collaboration needs to be seen as important across the entire brand team. I’m sure many advertising researchers out there have looked forward with excitement at the prospect of connecting with the brand’s agency at a presentation, only to find them absent or glued to their phones. And, undoubtedly, many agency creatives have attended those presentations in the past, only to be handed a pass or fail, without a shred of learning the “why.” The brand needs to become an outspoken advocate of collaboration, and politely insist on intelligent engagement from all.
- Measurement: There is no opportunity for great collaboration unless it is expected by the brand and evaluated as a key success factor, on both the research and agency side. A brand should be just as hard on a researcher that cannot address the “why” behind performance when questioned by a creative as it is on an agency that declines invitations or dismisses true participation.
- Face-to-Face: There’s barely a day that goes by when someone doesn’t examine the costs of technology when it comes to limiting that feeling of “belonging” that humans crave. One of the greatest predictors of effective collaboration is whether the team members actually have personally met each other. This lessens misinterpretations and it builds empathy and connection—increasing the willingness to believe that all are there to do no harm. If a brand priority is having at least an initial human-to-human meeting, effective collaboration is far more likely.
Researchers face continuing innovation with data sets and analysis; creatives stare down a changing branded communication landscape on a seemingly-daily basis. Our collaboration will only help us all learn faster and adapt with greater confidence.
Our industries need this, desperately. And so do brands. Let’s give it a go.
Amy Shea, Ameritest Senior Research Consultant and member of the ARF Creative Council
Please be sure to visit the ARF’s Creative Council, https://thearf.org/councils/creative-council/